Dec. 9-Springfield High School students are forming a group to address needs in the student body and prevent community violence after a youth summit about the impact of gun violence on young people.
The Springfield chapter of the NAACP and Springfield City Schools hosted a youth summit on Thursday evening, with four students serving as the panelists: Jerome Flowers, Dorian Briscoe, Joshua Woods and Tiaonna Blair.
The youth summit was organized following the success of the community conversation about gun violence, also hosted by Springfield's NAACP, that took place this summer at Clark State's Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center.
Springfield NAACP President Denise Williams said the youth summit was designed to give young people in the community a chance to voice their needs and seek solutions to preventing community violence.
"It's time to speak up and speak out," she said.
And speak out the four panelists did.
The impact of gun violence reverberates in a community and a school, Briscoe said. Tensions rise between people, and what once was settled in arguments or even fistfights now escalates into shots fired.
"We go back and forth, and now there's a war," the 15-year-old said.
Blair echoed this, saying sometimes fights erupt from smaller disputes.
"They could talk out these small things, but instead they're picking up a gun," she said.
Audience members were able to ask questions of and respond to the student panelists.
Otis Williams, an attendee of the summit, told the students that he lost his nephew, Deputy Matthew Yates, earlier this year to gun violence. He told students that times have changed since he was in their shoes, but he believes that discussion about differences should still happen.
"A lot of it comes down to the choices we make," he said.
Larry Ham, a Springfield basketball coach, told students at the summit that he has lost loved ones to gun violence: more recently, a nephew he described as bright and sharp-dressing.
"In all those situations, someone knew that someone had a gun, and no one spoke up," he said.
A culture of fear often surrounds telling adults about people who may have weapons or are going through difficult times, but there's a difference between "telling" and "snitching," Briscoe added.
Clark County Sheriff Deb Burchett and several others from the sheriff's office attended the summit to hear the needs of students.
"We're willing to help and want to be a part of that change," she said.
Blair said young people will not often come to law enforcement - or even adults not in uniform - for a variety of reasons, including lack of trust.
All four panelists agreed that a space for students to offer each other support is needed.
"It's easier to talk to someone your age, someone who's been in your shoes," Woods said.
Williams said the Springfield NAACP can be a starting point for that.
All four panelists agreed to start work toward a group to prevent violence in their community.
"This is what I wanted," said Williams at the end of the night. "It was a success, and it's part of what's to come."
Ronald Gordon, Springfield school district's director of community initiatives, said the district is committed to supporting its students and the community.